Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80% of enterprises would be migrating away from their on- premise hosted data centers to cloud, as part of their Data Center (DC) Exit strategy. However, it is important to clearly define the right cloud strategy to accelerate cloud migration and the transformation journey.
CIOs from the Manufacturing industry are still quite hesitant to move their systems to cloud that manages factory operations on the shop floor (known as MES applications). This is down to the fact that these systems are tightly coupled with shop-floor systems. Additionally, the R&D wing would have concerns about moving their Engineering-specific workloads due to high-performance computing requirements in addition to security concerns. The following are the primary concerns for cloud adoption, as they may impact daily operations and overall business, affecting KPIs viz., high Impact on productivity, quality, performance, time to market, IP, and customer satisfaction.
- Systems Availability
- Mission-Critical MES Applications are vital for factory operations and Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE). If interrupted, the Productivity will be at risk
- Data Security & Impact on Quality and performance
- IP protection for Engineering and other confidential data
- Shop-Floor machines and sensors produce large sets of mission-critical data that needs to be analyzed in real-time for Insights & Alerts for granular Quality Control
- Old/unsupported Legacy systems
- Critical apps such as MES could have been hosted in EOL servers / unsupported Software / Operating System (e.g. Windows NT)
- High-performance needs for Engineering Applications
- CAD/CAE applications and PLM applications need high-performing computing infrastructure
- Limited Connectivity for Shop-Floor Machine
- Complex real-time integration is required for Production planning and scheduling systems. However, limited Internet Connectivity for shop-floor machines is a hurdle.
Approach for Manufacturing Cloud
Most leading MES software providers have cloud-enabled offerings and cloud-hosted solutions by adopting microservices architecture and containerizing their applications. Very few providers offer SaaS-based MES applications. Hosting MES workloads on cloud infrastructure could result in significant cost benefits. However, integrating Cloud-MES applications with shop-floor systems remains a concern.
In the Engineering and PLM space, most software providers are already offering their software hosted on cloud. Cloud PLM significantly reduces the startup time required for new users, since there is no fresh implementation or installation required.
Hence, the approach for Cloud adoption in the manufacturing industry should consider the following:
- SaaS-ification: Considerations for Cloud MES systems for SaaS model may need to be analyzed for some specific operations and requirements to reduce the license cost of on-premise MES systems. Exiting your own Data Centers and moving to Cloud PLM solutions as offered by most of the top players in this space could prove to be the best approach.
- Re-Hosting: Mission-Critical legacy MES applications without any alternative may need to be re-hosted on cloud using containerization techniques, without changing the existing application or code.
- Integration: Multi-cloud integration will increase the complexity and may bring in additional efforts for security and change management. Hence, the integration strategy should be well defined and implemented seamlessly.
- HPC: For engineering workloads such as CAD/CAE infrastructure, high-performance computing can be ordered according to the exact requirements of engineering applications. Reserving computing instances for a longer duration/workload would actually reduce the infra costs significantly.
- Security: Security in the cloud should not be a concern anymore as hyperscale global public cloud leaders are already acquiring high-security capabilities to prevent unauthorized access and advanced auditing capabilities to automatically analyze for risks.
Hence, the best approach for DC exit is to leverage different options available for cloud adoption for Manufacturing and Engineering specific workloads. In this competitive market, major cloud players are betting on buying out their client’s data-centers to support their DC Exit strategy and offer significant discounts to reduce the total cost of ownership. Migration of MES, Engineering, and PLM /PDM workloads would be more beneficial to manufacturers beyond cost savings such as:
- Increased agility: Factory expansions that would require faster onboarding of new plants infrastructure and demands for quicker IT/OT deployment could be supported instantaneously using cloud infrastructure, thereby reducing significant amount of lead time and Installation/setup time.
- Instant scalability: On-demand infrastructure needs for exploration/experiments such as IoT, Digital Twins etc., could start small on the cloud using IoT gateway services and scale according to the business needs and volume.
- Flawless user experience: Near local deployment of infrastructure and content delivery can be instantly supported globally to support seamless user-experience and without latency issues using content delivery network services.
- Faster decision-making: Need for near real-time insights with predictive and prescriptive analytics for making “Integrated Factories/data and Intelligent decisions” could be supported by adopting cloud-native solutions such as Data warehousing, AI, ML, and streaming analytics services.
- Tightened security: Continuous Security Assessments and monitoring to identify and prevent security threats can be done using security assessment tools that can provide insights into the security posture of an entire cloud architecture or a specific application; Applications development can include Security assessment/testing as part of the development phase before getting deployed on scale using the DevSecOps model.
Enterprises that are still anxious about the cloud migration of their manufacturing and engineering workloads, should consider an approach that is best suited to their needs, create a well-crafted cloud transformation journey, and execute their cloud migration to reap maximum benefits. This should help them accelerate their DC exit strategy and gain significant cost savings as well as support business agility and scalability requirements.